Lorne Anderson KBF Sermon October 13, 2019
Good Morning Kurume Bible Fellowship,
It is great to see you all here this morning. Who had fun last week? Wasn’t that such a special day. I hope that we can have more fantastic events like the BBQ last week. Of course it would not have been so great if there weren’t so many people helping out! If I named all of the people who assisted last week, we would not have enough time for the sermon! What a blessing that so many people are invested in this community. A big thank you. And, in the words of Gina Abraham, bring on the next event!
This morning we are in part 2 of our Come Let Us Worship series. Last month we looked at the parables that Jesus taught with the hope that we can see the upside down kingdom that Jesus came to establish. Upside down to our own expectations of what Kingdom should be. This month, this series is about encouraging our response to that upside down kingdom. Specifically, worship as a response.
Last week we looked at John 4 where the interaction between Jesus and the woman in the well turned into an encouragement that God is looking for worshippers who will worship in the spirit and in truth. Today thought we are moving to Matthew 15 where we will talk about Ultimate Value.
Part 1: Jesus And The Hand Washing Issue
If you have your Bibles, please turn to Matthew chapter 15 and we will start at verse 1.
15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Wait, the disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating? Gross! Who doesn’t wash their hands before they eat?
I am joking of course. The washing of hands that is being spoken about here is not the hygienic washing of hands that we are all used to doing before we eat. Instead, what is being spoken about here is a ritual. There are 9 or more instances when Jews at that time, and maybe even some do this today, would be required to ceremonially clean their hands. There is a handwashing for when you wake up, when you touch your own sweat, when you leave the bathroom or cemetary and the list goes on.
There also happens to be a hand washing that should happen before a meal. There would be water in a special silver cup that would be poured over each hand and then there would be a prayer that would be recited and then one would be ready to eat.
It would appear he in the story that the disciples had sat down to eat and, scandalously, they had not performed this special hand washing!
Naturally, this caused some people to be very, very offended and they have come to hold Jesus accountable because he is the leader of disciples.
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
Uh oh! It is never good when you are trying to challenge someone and they reply by laying down a challenge of their own! And, this is quite a big challenge too! Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your (notice he did not say, ‘our’) tradition? An interesting phrase to come from Jesus, who was a Jewish man himself.
4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
Jesus deflects attention away from the handwashing to another issue at hand.
In the 10 commandments the fourth commandment is to Honour your Father and your Mother. An important commandment, Annie I hope you are listening! While this is a line that is taught in Sunday school and directed to younger children, the effect is largest when parents get older. When parents no longer have the capacity to work and earn a living, having their children available to help look after them and support them is an important thing. Honour your parents. Not just when you are young and they are trying to tell you what to do, but honour them when you are older and independent and it is them that need looking after.
This ‘honouring’ often required a financial component which could become rather costly if the parents had significant needs. So what would you do if you wanted to keep that money for yourself?
Some Jewish people of Jesus’ day had a way to get around the command to honor your father and mother. If they declared that all their possessions or savings were a gift to God that were especially dedicated to Him, they could then say that their resources were unavailable to help their parents.
(David Guzik, 2018: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/matthew-15/)
In this way a rule was created that gave people an excuse. In order to keep their money they could say that the money was a gift to God dedicated to him. This gave them a justification for not looking after their parents. These people had created an excuse. An excuse that made them think and feel like they were doing the right thing – dedicating their savings as a gift to God when in actual fact, it was blinding them from being obedient to the 10 commandments. With this extra detail, how ridiculous does their first question sound?
Jesus, why are your disciples not washing their hands?
Hey, how can you even ask this question about washing hands, a question about obedience, when you don’t even honour your mother and father, which is directly related to the 10 commandments?
7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you.
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”
These are some pretty powerful words that Jesus responds with and within them I think there is an important warning for us to heed when we think about worship.
These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.
Jesus issues a warning from the book of Isaiah, scripture that these people would definitely be familiar with.
Part 2: Worship And Tradition
There is a powerful link, infact a powerful warning here about tradition and about worship.
Jesus began by saying;
“And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
And then concluded with;
They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.
What does he mean? Obedience and following the law is a large part of Jewish culture and this would have been especially so among the Pharisees. The people whom Jesus was speaking to would have known the Old Testament writings and they would have been trying to obey the commandments that they found in the Old Testament. To help them understand how to live according to God’s rules they had some significant Oral Teachings that would help guide them in how to practically do this on a day to day basis. Over time, these instructions would turn into traditions and people could do these actions out of habit rather than reverence to God who instructed them.
If we think of worship as ascribing ultimate value, the definition from Timothy Keller that we used last week, we can understand what is happening in this passage of Matthew.
Jesus is revealing that the Pharisees that Jesus is talking to have allowed themselves to put ultimate value in obedience. This is to say that they are putting ultimate value in how well they can follow the law. The value is on the human ability which is why their worship is empty. They might be trying to honour God with their lips but their hearts are far away.
As I thought about this passage this week, it made me think about if and when I might fall into a similar trap. I shared a pretty humbling and embarrassing story last week about how I struggled with judging new churches that I would visit. Always thinking about how I could do things better. At that time I would have honoured God with my lips, but was my heart far away?
Where do you direct your ultimate value?
I ask this question not because I want to make you feel bad but because I think it is an important question to ask ourselves. If we walk into church on Sunday and all we can hear is the mistakes of the band, or all we can think about is why they chose those particular songs, or why they play those instruments… Are we doing a similar thing?
I want to make it very clear that I am not thinking about any one of you when I ask these questions because I have done all of these! Again, I am not trying to make you feel bad but I do want to challenge us as a church. What are we putting ultimate value in? The tradition that is associated with this place, or are we making sure that we are putting ultimate value in God himself.
Part 3: Worship
My heart here is to make sure that when we think about worship we are thinking about putting ultimate value in God! To expand on this definition that we are using, when Timothy Keller talks about worship, he talks about;
‘worship being the act of ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that energizes and engages your whole person or whole being.’
I love this definition, and already it is starting to cheer me up! Energizes and engages your whole person. Worship can engage your mind, will and emotions.
Worship can invoke an emotions through songs, praise, thanksgiving and music. All of these can make us feel emotions that energise us and help us think about who God is and what he can do.
These emotions can help us to engage more clearly with our thoughts. What do we think about God and how do we understand him? The emotional side of worship can encourage powerful thoughts, thoughts that have the capacity to dramatically change your life.
Thinking of course can direct your behaviour. This is where worship can impact your whole being. As you think about God you can also begin to decide how you will respond. In this way it is about aligning your will with God’s will. There is an element of submission. Sometimes that could mean that you might raise your hands, bow, or kneel during a song at church, but it could also mean that you look after a stranger or care for a person in distress.
In fact, when it comes to behaviour, there is lots that we can do to worship God. In his book The Grand Weaver, Ravi Zacharias helps us to consider a number of actions that can all be considered worship.
The first is praise. Something that we do regularly in church by singing praise songs. But this can also be through dance, celebrating festivals, and even sacraments like communion can be considered acts of worship. In each there is an action that encourages us to realign our attention to the Goodness and faithfulness of God, helping us to physically remember where ultimate value should be directed.
Through teaching yourself and teaching others, specifically about the word of God you can engage with the thought process to refocus and realign your attention to Jesus and the work of God. How often do consider your time studying the word an act of worship? How beautiful is it that you can worship through teaching!
Connecting with God through prayer, both speaking and listening. The goal of prayer is to engage with God and love him for who he is rather than what he can give you. Realigning our mind and our thinking to be more like God.
There is a beautiful line in a Mumford and Sons Song, which is aptly titled ‘Awake my Soul’ which says, ‘where you invest your life, you invest your life.’ An old pastor of mine used to say, if you show me your spending receipts, I can tell you what you worship. Giving through provision is one thing, but we have time and effort to give that is in addition to resources. When we think about how much Jesus gave in life and in death, how could giving not become a part of our worship as well? Through giving we realign our gifts, money and time, transforming them through the example of Christ.
I hope that these examples do indeed energize you! Worship is not simply a song on a Sunday morning, but it is a beautiful way of life. It can, and in fact should be a part of every day of a believers life! How could it not if we are discovering what it really means to put ultimate value in God with our whole being!
Returning to Matthew 15, in verse 12;
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
In the passage we read this morning, Jesus issued some harsh criticism and I can understand that the people hearing it were offended. I am not great at receiving criticism especially not when it comes to something like tradition which can provide so much meaning.
I hope thought that we can head the warning without being offended. I hope that we can see how important it is to consider whether our traditions are helping us worship or are leading us away from that which is important.
Worship rather than being an action we do out of our traditions, is an action we do as we respond to how amazing God is. It is about the process of placing ultimate value in God and then engaging with what that means. Realigning, repenting and transforming as you encounter God, the most powerful and yet most gracious thing you could ever imagine! What a gift!
|Psalm 95: 1-7
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
As we think about worship this month, my prayer is that you would be energized as you engage with God deeply. My prayer is that our praise songs on Sunday would be the final celebration of a whole week that is spent in worship. I pray that your emotions, thoughts and behaviour would be inspired. That you might find incredible ways to praise, teach, pray and give as you discover how wonderful God. I pray that through our Lord Jesus Christ you would see how worthy God is of ultimate value and may you be transformed as you respond to his beauty! Come, Let Us Worship.
2 Peter 1: 2-3
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.